Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Leading Each Animal Safely Home (L.E.A.S.H.)

Aiken County Animal Advocates


(Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc.)

By Joya DiStefano

This Aiken County Animal Advocates Columns was posted in the Wagener Monthly in July 2014

Last month we presented Lars as a “wild man,” and, although that is not a complete mischaracterization, as even Lars himself would admit, it is not the full picture either.  You can be sure that Mayor Mike saw it, too, when he offered to set Lars, his wife Jess, their three-year-old daughter, Savannah, and the rescue they had founded on property he owned. The audacity of Lars comes complete with its own magic, major and minor miracles, a lot of heart, and a whole lot of “likes” on Facebook (5,722, to be exact).  

So perhaps before we ask the local community to get involved, we should offer some background for the most recent cause that beckons.

L.E.A.S.H. is an acronym that stands for Leading Each Animal Safely Home.  The Swearingens founded the rescue two years ago this month on the notion that they were going to rescue straight at the source, the streets, and that their search-and-rescue missions would, in fact, result in lost dogs being returned to their loving homes.  The lucky beneficiary of their first day on the job was a turtle.  Pictures were taken, and the lucky reptile returned to Mama Nature.
It did not take long, however, for the calls to start coming in, but the need was not entirely what the young couple had imagined.  There were dogs full of puncture wounds, with rope burns on their neck, with mange covering their bodies, and dogs that looked like badly upholstered skeletons. Search and rescue was not about homes looking for their dogs, it was neglected, mistreated and abandoned animals looking for safety, security and eventually the home all dogs deserve. 

Within a couple of months L.E.A.S.H. incorporated as LEASH Squad and a few months later this newly minted rescue was called upon in for a mission it could not have imagined in the couple of months it had dedicated to even the worst cases from the “the streets.”

It began with the notice of a “Death Row Album,” 48 dogs with a literal deadline at a county facility two and a half hours east.  Lars knew that he could not accommodate 48 dogs, but he put out the call and the morning of the rescue operation Lars had 5 cars, 7 people and 17 crates. They would do what they could.  Then he got a call from someone willing to donate a barn full of box stalls. God must have been smiling on the plan, such as it was.

“What I didn’t realize at the time,” Lars recalls, “Is that the litters did not count as individual dogs. The moms counted; the puppies were extra.  There were actually 64 dogs.”  Off they went and then the call came from Danny & Ron’s Rescue in Camden.  They were sending their “dog bus” full of empty crates and complete with a driver. There was a reciprocal angel at the other end when the party arrived.  He had done everything he could to save as many dogs as he could and Lars honored the effort with the decision to take the lot, all of them.

The dog called Pat was a bite case on a ten-day hold. He could not go.  Lars does not know how Jess managed to lock herself in the kennel with Pat, who then proceeded to lick her face.  “We take them all, or we take none,” he said. By yet another miracle, they took all 67 dogs out of that facility that day, and named the outrageous adventure “Operation Phoenix Rising.”  The number of enabling miracles did not end there. 

There was a Paws for Freedom Rescue Convention the same day.  The caravan showed up at the convention and, and with the help of organizations like STAR, and Molly’s Militia 40 dogs went straight into foster homes.  The other 27 went to the farm.  Seven who are the hardest cases are still with Lars at L.E.A.S.H. 

It has been two very challenging years. Many, many more desperately needy dogs have come since the “Phoenix 67.” In the ensuing months Lars and Jess have demonstrated their gratitude to God and their commitment to this cause.  They have also learned a lot.  Lars admits that he is much better at playing well with others. He will be a great asset to the Wagener area.  L.E.A.S.H. needs and is worthy of your help.

PAWS, Inc. has incorporated LEASH as a program into is mission to “get and keep animals out of shelters.”  PAWS is a 501(c)(3) public charity and, as such we are asking for money, materials and manpower from vendors and members of the local community to help the LEASH Rescue get more effectively established.  Lars has a plan.  A concrete pad is most urgent.  Mayor Mike has Quonset tents that can be erected to keep the dogs dry now and then warm come winter.  We need perimeter fencing.

Wagener can be proud of the steps it is taking to join our local no-kill movement.  It leads the way in the county for spay/neuter assistance and Trap-Neuter-Return for the free-roaming cats.  Please help any of the following causes with your time or money:
   L.E.A.S.H. - (646-6204)
   PAWS at

·       Lenny’s Brigade:  Call Vicki: 640-0750 or Dottie: 564-5231

A retired organizational problem-solver and radical educator, Joya Jiménez DiStefano is an artist, Servant Leader, co-founder of FOTAS, and founder of PAWS, Inc.

No comments:

Post a Comment